WWE was in full transition throughout 19993. I’m pretty sure I started off last year’s WrestleMania with the same sentence, but this time it was even more apparent. They were still feeling the repercussions from the steroid allegations that plagued them the previous year. A lot of the water retaining guys that used to plague the roster were gone, and in their place were a bunch of tall guys, relatively good workers and a whole bunch of gimmicks. The Federation era was pretty much over, and in it’s place was the new WWE generation of wrestlers. And by new generation, I mean the top guys were still all in their thirties, but at least new to the main event scene.
Bret Hart upset Ric Flair a few months before the show to capture the WWE championship for the first time. He faced challengers such as Razor Ramon, Papa Shango and a slew of others, but the real test would be in the form of a giant newcomer to the WWE, Yokozuna. Being well over 500 pounds at the time, Yokozuna had a presence not many on the WWE roster had, so naturally he was given a monster push to the top. It helped that there weren’t a lot of top heels on the roster, and Yokozuna was able to run with it, winning the Royal Rumble to secure his championship match against Bret Hart at WrestleMania.
The other big story of the show was the return of Hulk Hogan. Yes, his retirement lasted roughly around a year. Given that other retirements in today’s wrestling last about two days, this was actually pretty good. He’s making his epic return after Money Inc. turned on Jimmy Hart and blasted Beefcake (who was still recovering from a parasailing accident that shattered his face a few years prior) with IRS’ briefcase. It’ll be him and Beefcake taking on Money Inc. for the tag team titles, with the newly babyface Jimmy Hart in their corner. But that’s not the only time we’ll be seeing the Hulkster on this show. I’ll get into that more as the time comes…
We start off with Gorilla Monsoon introducing us to WrestleMania IX as he throws it to Jim Ross, who’s in a toga. When you think about it, from day one Jim Ross was pretty much the source of Vince McMahon’s jollies. Even 21 years after this event he’s still being ribbed, and he’s not even with the company anymore. Caesar and Cleopatra make their way to the ring (they look good for being well over 1,993), as well as “Macho Man” Randy Savage, who comes out on a sedan, being fed grapes. Exotic! Bobby Heenan finally comes out, riding a camel from behind. Oh Heenan, you’re so silly.
WWE Intercontinental Title: Shawn Michaels (c) vs. Tatanka: This match was rest hold city for a while, but there was some good action after. Shawn’s shoulder ate the post big time and made a sick sound. Tatanka went for something off the top rope but Shawn drilled him with a superkick. Sherri was in Tatanka’s corner and Luna Vachon was in Shawn’s. Sherri kept Luna from interfering throughout. Shawn botches a victory roll big time for a nearfall. Tatanka countered Shawn’s second attempt with a huge electric chair for a near-fall. Tatanka makes a comeback that doesn’t seem very PC in 2014 and flies with a crossbody for a near-fall. Shawn misses a big crossbody off the apron and Tatanka rolls into the ring. Shawn drags the referee out of the ring and goes inside, where Tatanka meets him with a samoan drop. He covers him, but the referee comes in, counting Shawn out. Um, so he attacks a referee and gets COUNTED OUT? That doesn’t make any sense. ***1/4
Sherri is on the apron celebrating Tatanka’s win when Luna throws her off the apron then gives her a bodyslam. Tatanka makes the save, but the damage has already been done. And this’ll be Sherri’s swan song as she’s gone by the summer. I’ll always remember the time her wig fell off at WrestleMania VII.
Mean Gene brings in the Steiner Brothers, who are due to meet the Headshrinkers. Scott says they’ll make this a memorable WrestleMania, while Rick promises to make Julius Caesar proud.
The Headshrinkers vs. The Steiner Brothers: Jim drops his first slobberknocker line ever. Bobby seems confused by the term. Most of the match had the Steiner Bros. in full control until one of the Headshrinkers slingshotted Scott, but Scott landed improperly and actually and thrown all the way to the floor. Afa followed that with a kendo stick shot — fun! This put the Headshrinkers in control. Scott tried to come back with a facebuster, but Fatu got right back up and superkicked him. They had the heat on him forever and ever until Rick Steiner finally made the hot tag. He gets taken down, but when the Headshrinkers go for a double team move Rick actually powerslams one of the Headshrinkers off the other Headshrinkers shoulders. Finally Scott is tagged back in and hits the frankensteiner for the pinfall. Could have really benefitted from being a few minutes shorter; if the goal was to put over the Steiner Brothers they would have benefited more by having a more explosive match rather than have Scott being worked on forever and ever. I guess it doesn’t matter in the end because by this time next year, they’ll be gone. So this was not only their debut, but also their farewell. I guess that’s the breaks. **1/2
Mean Gene is with Doink the Clown. They show video footage of him clowning around with Crush, taking him down with a fake arm cast. He says he’s bringing a sense of humor, and that after tonight Crush might be seeing double vision. A prelude!
Doink the Clown vs. Crush: Doink as a heel was awesome. But as we will see later, he was absolutely worthless as a face. Crush has gone from being a part of Demolition to a guy from Kona, Hawaii with a really bad fake accent. This will be one of many transformations we’ll see as time goes by when it comes to Crush. He jumps Doink at the bell and bodyslams him on the mat, then posts him. Crush destroyed Doink for a long while until Doink finally cut him off, including drilling him with a piledriver. Crush comes back with a bodyslam and a clothesline. Doink crawls under the ring but Crush catches him, bodyslams him and hits the vicegrip but Doink KO’s the referee. Doink tries to go under the ring again, but Crush catches him and hits the squeeze again. Suddenly, another Doink comes from behind and blasts Crush with the arm cast. After doing the Harpo Marx mirror bit (though not as good) the real Doink covers Crush for the three count. Not a very interesting match. *3/4
Another referee (Bill Alfonso of future ECW fame) comes in and points out the other Doink situation. But when they look under the ring, THERE’S NOTHING THERE. It’s magic!
Todd Pettingill is in the crowd, making his WrestleMania debut. He spoke to two Japanese photographers who acted, again, not very politically correct. One of them was very excited about Yokozuna, while the other one said Las Vegas was #1.
Razor Ramon vs. Bob Backlund: Both are making their WrestleMania debuts here. This didn’t last long but wasn’t very good regardless. For being such a great technical wrestler Backlund looked bad in everything he did. He was in control for most the match until Razor rolled him up out of nowhere for the pinfall. DUD
Mean Gene is with Money Inc.. They show footage of what happened on Raw when IRS turned on Jimmy Hart and smacked Brutus Beefcake with a briefcase. DiBiase says it’s time to put up or shut up, and that’s how Money Inc.. likes it- stakes are high. IRS hints that Hogan was attacked last night and if you thought Beefcake looked bad after they attacked him, look what happened to Hogan.
WWE Tag Team Championship – The Mega Maniacs (Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake) vs. Money Inc.: Hogan’s eye was red and looked terrible. The shoot story Hogan gave was that there was a boating accident. Looks like someone punched him out though. Hmm. Beefcake gets worked on a while before tagging in Hogan who, in fact, runs wild, brother. Money Inc. start to bail, but all of a sudden Finkus Maximus (the cute name they gave them for the night) announces that if Money Inc. doesn’t come back to the ring, they’ll lose the match AND the titles. Why, because this is Hulk Hogan? I just watched WrestleMania VIII where in fact Money Inc. did the SAME EXACT FINISH and it worked there. IRS grabs the tag rope and chokes out Hogan while DiBiase distracts the ref. Long rest hold by DiBiase on Hogan. Hot tag to Beefcake, but he’s soon put out of commission for a while as well until ANOTHER hot tag. Get this awesome finish. Hogan lays out both guys with Brutus’ face protector and both he and Brutus get visual covers while the referee is down. Jimmy Hart turns his coat around to reveal that there are stripes on the inside. How this designates you as a referee I have NO IDEA. He counts to three as Hogan and Beefcake grab the belts and celebrate. Of course, then this little thing called REALITY sets in as another referee comes in and rightly DQs Hogan for using Brutus’ face mask. The totally great babyfaces then threaten the referee and Jimmy Hart throws him over the top rope and to the floor because they’re assholes who RIGHTLY GOT DQ’D FOR USING A WEAPON. Uninteresting match with stupid finish. And trust me, this isn’t the last we’ll see of the Greatest Babyface of All Time Hulk Hogan tonight. *1/2
After the match, they open IRS’ briefcase and besides tax forms and a brick, there’s MONEY. Hogan hands them to the crowd as everyone leaves happy as the show goes off the air. Wait, there’s still like an hour left. That’s strange. My bad!
Todd Pettingill is with Natalie Cole, who is a singer, I’ve heard. Before my time, I guess. I should note this was the only celebrity who attended WrestleMania this year. Far cry from other years. He also interviews the CEO of Caesars Palace who says a lot of things, I just noticed Todd’s cool shades that, in fact, we’re probably not a thing back in the Roman Empire days.
Mean Gene is with Mr. Perfect. He says he’s already gotten a hole in one and tonight he’ll take care of…whatshisname. He flubs “The Narcissist” several times. It’s a tough word to say correctly, honestly. But I thought he was perfect…
Mr. Perfect vs. The Narcissist Lex Luger: Luger got a cool entrance with scantily clad ladies holding a mirror. And as he poses in front of them, the mirrors shoot pyro. That was the highlight. Perfect worked on Luger’s leg. Luger made a comeback and worked on Perfect’s back, which if you remember, kept him out of action for a year. Luger rolls him up and gets his feet on the ropes but the referee sees it and stops it. Perfect made a dull comeback. Luger does the lamest clothesline attempt ever and somehow Perfect manages to try and bridge him, but Luger reverses, then rolls him up for the three count. The big thing is, however, Perfect had his feet on the ropes but the referee didn’t see it. Lame. *
Luger lays out Perfect with the forearm after. They kept mentioning earlier in the show how Luger had KO’d Bret earlier at a brunch, and they assume something is up regarding Luger’s forearm. Perfect makes his way to the back where Perfect jumps Luger, but Shawn comes in and attacks Perfect, throwing him into a bunch of boxes and throwing a trash can at him. This will lead to a series of disappointing matches leading to SummerSlam. Also the last time we’ll see Perfect in a WrestleMania ring. Honestly, not much of a WrestleMania run for him. He wasn’t the same though after SummerSlam 1991. He did have that great match with Ric Flair on Raw, but that’s about it.
Giant Gonzales vs. The Undertaker: The Undertaker comes out on a chariot with a crow, because he is dead or something. It’s macabre, sure. Gonazles’ selling was hilarious here. Not very good, but it made me laugh. After a series of back and forth goofy offense there was REST HOLDS by Giant Gonzales. He takes Undertaker to the outside where Gonzales throws him into the steps. Undertaker makes a comeback and sends him down on one knee. While Wippleman distracts Undertaker, Gonzales grabs a towel with chloroform (you wouldn’t know this unless you were watching this on TV as the announcers had to explain it, so obviously this was lost on the live crowd) and tries to choke out the Undertaker for the DQ. The Wrestling Observer was kind to this match but I thought it really sucked. Gonzales was no good and the finish was stupid. -*
Undertaker is given medical attention as Gonzales lays out the referee. I thought the Undertaker was dead, and therefore did not require medical attention. He’s stretchered out, but suddenly there’s the GONG and The Undertaker comes back and beats up Gonzales. I think I had more to say here as in my initial watching I left the previous sentence in a comma, but I’m assuming I was so disinterested in the previous match I had nothing more to say. So that’s all!
Mean Gene (who I should mention is also departing after this WrestleMania) is with Hulk Hogan, who gives his thoughts on the main event. Says that Bret Hart will have the Hulkamaniacs with him, but he’s issuing an open challenge to Bret or Yokozuna (he called him a slur which is so bad, even for 1993) for a title match down the line.
WWE Championship – Yokozuna vs. Bret Hart ©: Bret had a flurry of offense early, but Yokozuna soon beats him down. Yokozuna works on him for a while until he misses a charge in the corner. Bret hits a bulldog and starts his comeback. Bret starts mounting punches but Yokozuna counters with a spinebuster. Bret recovers quickly, hits Yokozuna with the exposed turnbuckle and puts him in the sharpshooter. It looks like Bret is about to win it, but suddenly Mr. Fuji grabs the salt and throws it at Bret’s face. Yokozuna covers him, and wins the championship. **
Hulk Hogan suddenly comes down to the ring and argues with the ref. He’s good at threatening referees. He checks on Bret as Fuji says Yokozuna is issuing a challenge to him right now. Hogan tries to escort Bret out (this is one of his better acting performances if you think about it) as Fuji goads him on. Bret tells him to go for it as Hogan pauses, looks at the crowd then enters the ring for the match.
WWE Championship: Yokozuna (c) vs. Hulk Hogan: Yokozuna immediately grabs Hogan as Mr. Fuji goes for the salt, but the plan backfires as Hogan dodges and it hits Yokozuna instead. Hogan bodyslams him, hits the leg drop and pins him to win the title. I can’t even imagine most Hulk Hogan fans at the time liking this. Just so wrong and reeks of political stroke. Even Triple H won (and lost) all his titles after long matches. Well ok, fine, there was that ONE TIME with the World title but that was in a segment, not a 20-second match where he pinned the top heel immediately. NR
Huge pyro and fireworks display as Hulk Hogan poses with the title. This would (maybe thankfully) be the last WrestleMania for Hulk Hogan for a good while. He’ll go on to lose the belt to Yokozuna at the first ever King of the Ring in June in kind of the cleanest manner possible (at least by Hulk Hogan standards), has a fallout with Vince McMahon over money (among other things), and by this time next year he gets a ticker tape parade right into WCW, where more of his goofy antics continued. He’ll be busy with WCW stuff for the rest of the decade, but we’ll be seeing him again in about nine years.
A real dud of a show. The opener was pretty good, but the lame ending killed it. There were problems in every other match on the card. Doesn’t help that the celebrity star power that carried the first eight WrestleManias was completely gone for this card. WWE was definitely in a growing period during this time, and this show is a testament to that. At least there will be a turnaround at next year’s WrestleMania where we’ll return to the place that started it all: Madison Square Garden!